Culdrose Air Day 2015: The Search and Rescue Sea King from 771 Squadron makes its last appearance at an Air Day. Picture by Colin Higgs

Iconic navy search and rescue helicopter to return to skies above Cornwall

August 2, 2017

The skies of Cornwall will soon welcome back a couple of old friends – two helicopters which were once used by the navy for search and rescue.

The Ministry of Defence is returning two Sea King Mark 5 aircraft to service, and they will once again have a life-saving role – to help train the German navy.

The aircraft were once used by 771 Naval Air Squadron for rescue missions across Cornwall from their base at RNAS Culdrose near Helston.

The iconic grey and red aircraft were a regular and popular sight around Cornwall and much admired by the public. Many of the aircraft date to 1979 or the early 1980s and one saw action in the Falklands War.

While one of the helicopters was kept on display behind the fence at Culdrose, as a testimony to the bravery of their air crews, the others were shipped away to storage by the navy in April 2016.

Responsibility for search and rescue was handed over to the new coastguard helicopters at Newquay.

Now two of them are being leased to HeliOperations UK so that the organisation can train aircrew in the German navy in search and rescue skills.

The retired Sea Kings will be retained as UK military aircraft, but will be operated from a training base at Portland in Dorset up until September 2018.

The maintenance activity required to bring these two aircraft back into service is being carried out at Culdrose and following ‘ground runs’, the first aircraft will commence its flight test phase soon.

Both aircraft will eventually undergo a full respray, however locals to the Culdrose area may see the first aircraft completing its test flying programme still in its original search and rescue paint scheme, as the re-spray is scheduled after this element has been completed.

711 NAS Sea King makes it final journey.


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